Washington, DC – The Trump Administration is working to introduce new regulations to curtail H-1B visa extensions, putting in jeopardy Green Card applications of hundreds of such visa holders. The H-1B is a common visa route for highly skilled foreigners, especially from India to find work at companies in the US. It’s valid for three years, and can be renewed for another three years.
“The proposal, being drafted in memos shared between DHS department heads, is part of President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative promised during the 2016 campaign,” according to a report published at the end of 2017, in Miami Herald newspaper.
Citing two US sources briefed on the proposal, the report disclosed that the administration would like to reinterpret the “may grant” language of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act to stop extending H-1B visas for thousands of immigrants.
“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self- deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” a US source briefed by Homeland Security officials, was quoted by the report, written by Franco Ordonez.
“The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programs,” said Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Presidential Executive Order
On April 18, 2017, then newly elected President Donald J. Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American Executive Order,” seeking to create higher wages and employment rates for US workers and to protect their economic interests by rigorously enforcing and administering US immigration laws. Although the USCIS and other agencies were asked to work on a combination of rule-making, policy memoranda, and operational changes to implement the “Buy American and Hire American Executive Order,” no concrete changes in laws have emerged.
On the eve of the signing by President Trump in Wisconsin on April 18, two senior White House officials briefed journalists in the Brady Press Briefing room on background. Outlining the measures in the order, the officials said those would ensure that US workers who are just as qualified, willing and deserving to work in the relevant fields were not ignored or otherwise unfairly disadvantaged in the H-1B process.
Giving a glimpse into the President’s vision, the officials had said, “The President believes that the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program must serve the national interest. And he is taking action to ensure that it does.”
Moreover, after the announcement, Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division said, “The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against US workers.” Wheeler further cautioned, “US workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims.”
The USCIS has accepted the fact that the H-1B visa program helps US companies to recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country, but noted that many a times American workers, “who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged.”
The White House, however, can not change the present quota as USCIS has a Congressional mandate to issue 65,000 H-1B visas in the general category and another 20,000 for those applicants having higher education – masters and above – from US universities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.